Having defied party orders to vote for a mandatory disease-testing bill, one of NSW Labor's most senior politicians has resigned from the shadow cabinet.
If passed into law, the legislation would require anyone who assaults a frontline worker to be subjected to a mandatory blood test for HIV and hepatitis B and C.
Penny Sharpe on Friday quit Labor's frontbench and as deputy leader in the upper house after abstaining from a vote for the legislation, which easily passed the legislative council without her.
In a letter to Opposition leader Jodi McKay, Ms Sharpe said the decision was one of the most difficult she had ever made.
"For over 30 years I have been involved in law reform and policy development with the focus of trying to save lives and minimise risk to the community from blood-borne viruses," she said.
"I have campaigned with others to remove the stigma faced by those who have been infected with HIV and hepatitis."
That meant she could not vote with the Labor party, she says, and therefore her roles as shadow minister for disability inclusion and shadow minister for family and community services were untenable.
Ms McKay said she understood the decision had been difficult for Ms Sharpe.
"I wish Penny well and note she remains a valuable member of the Labor team," she said in a statement.
"She has committed to doing everything she can to help Labor win the trust of the people of NSW and be returned to government in 2023."
The bill, which has the support of Labor and the government, is expected to return for a vote in the lower house when parliament resumes next month.
It has drawn the ire of NSW's leading LGBTQI health organisation ACON, which says it further stigmatises HIV and hepatitis sufferers while offering no extra protection to frontline workers.
"Time and time again, we have reiterated the scientific fact that HIV simply does not get passed on through saliva or spitting," chief executive Nicolas Parkhill said earlier this month.
"It is not based on evidence and will only perpetuate fears, uncertainty, and anxiety about how to properly manage exposures to bodily fluids.
"Its operation has the potential to expose health staff drawing blood, without patient consent, to risks of aggression and potentially violence."
Australian Associated Press